The Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley in the English county of Surrey south of London, is one of four gardens run by the Society, the others being Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall and Rosemoor. Wisley is the second most visited paid entry garden in the United Kingdom after the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with 959,434 visitors in the year to 31 January 2010.
Wisley was founded by Victorian businessman and RHS member George Ferguson Wilson, who purchased a 60-acre (243,000 m²) site in 1878. He established the "Oakwood Experimental Garden" on part of the site, where he attempted to "make difficult plants grow successfully". Wilson died in 1902 and Oakwood (which was also known as Glebe Farm) was purchased by Sir Thomas Hanbury, the creator of the celebrated garden La Mortola on the Italian Riviera. He gave both sites to the RHS the following year.
Wisley is now a large and diverse garden covering 240 acres (971,000 m²). In addition to numerous formal and informal decorative gardens, several glasshouses and an extensive arboretum, it includes small scale "model gardens" which are intended to show visitors what they can achieve in their own gardens, and a trials field where new cultivars are assessed.
The laboratory, for both scientific research and training, was originally opened in 1907, but proved inadequate. It was expanded and its exterior was rebuilt during World War I. It was designated a Grade II Listed building in 1985.
Visitor numbers increased significantly from 5,250 in 1905, to 11,000 in 1908, 48,000 in the late 1920s, and 170,000 in 1957, and passed 400,000 in 1978, 500,000 in 1985, and 600,000 in 1987.
In April 2005 Alan Titchmarsh cut the turf to mark the start of construction of the Bicentenary Glasshouse. This major new feature covers three quarters of an acre (3,000 m²) and overlooks a new lake built at the same time. It is divided into three main planting zones representing desert, tropical and temperate climates. It was budgeted at £7.7 million and opened June 26, 2007.
Wisley has a large number of features, including the following:
Visitor facilities include cafés and restaurant, car parks, plant centre, etc.
Orchid in the glasshouse, 2013
Spring Crocus In Flower, January 2013
Trials field at Wisley showing some of the hundreds of varieties assessed for the Award of Garden Merit
Quercus robur beside the laboratory
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